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Efficient cutting for 14 ga sheet metal

Dave Sebaste mentioned a Harbor Freight bandsaw in a recent post on
efficient cutting of 14 ga sheet metal. I have been following that
thread with interest and noted that at least one of you mentioned
the Hawk scroll saw. Would anyone who has used the Hawk be willing
to comment inasmuch as I have been considering investing the
$800-1000 it would cost to purchase one. I want a saw to cut
plastic (for hydraulic press dies), steel (also for hydraulic
press), other, non-ferrous metals and occasionally wood or glass.
For those of you who have used it, is the Hawk worth the extra
money? Does it work equally well for different materials? thank
you for your help.

Sheridan Reed

I posted the original question to this, and wanted to re-state what
ended up being very workable and inexpensive (ie - didn’t have to go
buy another $200 - $400 tool) – a standard jigsaw. I used a Bosch
model 1581VS with 3" metal-cutting blades (teeth are offset) with 18
teeth per inch. Works like a charm even with curves; very neat cuts
with only sanding required to clean up the edges; and you can mask
the bottom plate. I got just a few surface scratches which sanded
out easily on a power sander and fine grit. And the best thing: it’s
FAST, as in it took 5 minutes to cut 10 pieces as opposed to one
piece every 10 minutes on the skillsaw or 15 minutes each by hand.
Can you hear the profitability meter going way up?

I realized I must have been asleep when I wrote the last post. I
really had two questions: Has anyone tried the Harbor Freight
bandsaw mentioned by Dave in a recent post? If so, what result? Have
any of you experience with the Hawk scroll saw which is very
expensive but I believe has a reputation for effecient and effective
cutting of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, plastic, glass, etc. I
wanted to know if it’s reputation is deserved. thank you!

Sheridan Reed

    And the best thing: it's FAST, as in it took 5 minutes to cut
10 pieces as opposed to one piece every 10 minutes on the skillsaw
or 15 minutes each by hand. Can you hear the profitability meter
going way up? 

As long as the detail is large enough to allow the use of a Jigsaw
then they are great tools. I have a Bosch jigsaw as well and use it
for metal but not for jewelry scale items as it cannot cut small
radius curves ( it is tough to do less than 2" radius with the metal
cutting blades) and it produces a kerf that is too wide (.025" -
.030") for precious metals. It is however a great tool and I like
mine a lot for my larger scale work.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

RBI does not give much data for cutting metal and you are on your
own to figure out what works best.  The variables aRe: type of
metal, metal thickness, saw speed, blade size, blade tension,
cutting rate, and operator skill. 

Hi,

Do you think you could address the above problems based on your
recent experience. I have a Delta variable speed scroll saw and I am
snapping blades so quickly as to make it useless. I typically cut
16-20 ga. copper sheet. What I think is most important is knowing
what kind of blade to buy in the first place. Not surprisingly none
of the local hardware store or tool guys know. The local Home Depot
guy first claimed they didn’t carry scroll saws (then I pointed them
out to him) and then insisted they don’t carry replacement blades.

I start slower, try to cut down on the chatter as much as I can,
keep the blade about as tense as I would in my jewelers saw and don’t
rush it. If I at least knew I was using a reasonable blade I could
work on the operator skill part! smile!

Karen

Karen,

I think one of the main reasons for breaking blades on these saws is
not the blade quality (although that will contribute) but the fact
that with such a large “C” frame there is a lot of side to side
motion at the tips of the “C” where the blades are attached . This
motion and the vibration from the motor and the teeth in the metal
all allows for the formation of a standing wave in the blade as it
is in use. If you look at the blade while it is in motion you can
often see this side to side distortion. I belive it is the bending
of the blade sideways and it being forced to straighten out as it
passes through the metal that account for the breakage. This is one
reason I have looked carefully at the RBI saw it is by far the most
rigid frame construction of any jig saw I have ever seen. In
demonstrations I have seen with it the blade was put through all
kinds of multi directional motion by the operator but the blade
never broke, unfortunately the demo was all done in wood. He had
some 16 ga brass he had cut but I really wanted to see it in action
on metal before I paid $1000.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

Hi,

I often use a Delta 18" variable speed saw to cut intricate designs
into silver. I run it at its slowest speed. I seldom break a blade
now. Some things I have learned:

  1. Most important - don’t rush - especially when making curves and
    corners. It takes a bit of practice to not push hard and to allow
    the blade to do the work. It also takes practice to get the feel for
    feeding the piece straight into the blade and not accidentally
    feeding it sideways (another reason for blade breakage). It also
    requires focus and close attention. Don’t try it when tired.

  2. Good lighting is essential.

  3. I used jewelers saw blades, #1 and up depending on the thickness
    of what I’m cutting. Rio has a chart detailing blade size relative
    the gauge to be cut. The blade must be tight.

  4. Your fingers should be as close to the sides of the blade as
    possible (not in front) to reduce metal “flop”. Rubber finger tips
    are a good idea.

  5. If the metal is 18 ga or thinner I rubber cement it onto a thin
    piece of plywood. This helps to hold the metal flat. The wood
    doesn’t slow the blade. If the piece gets away, the wood also keeps
    the metal from getting warped in the slam down.

  6. Multiple pieces can be glued together and sawed at once.

I hadn’t thought to use the jigsaw. I’ll give that a try sometime.

Karen